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Conservation Law Alert – Conservation Legislation Victory for CO

Recent Colorado Legislation and New Division of Conservation

During the 2018 legislative session, the people of Colorado gained an enormous win for our state as House Bill 1291 was passed. This groundbreaking bill extends many key provisions of the Colorado Conservation Easement Tax Credit Program, clarifies and streamlines previously ambiguous or cumbersome aspects, and moves the oversight of the program to a newly created Division of Conservation. These changes will provide landowners and land conservation organizations the opportunity to continue to protect the critical wildlife habitat and ranchland of Colorado.

The new Division of Conservation is within the Department of Regulatory Agencies and moves the authority, responsibility, and oversite of the conservation easement tax credit program from the state’s Real Estate Division to the Division of Conservation. The opportunities created by the establishment of this new division whose singular directive is to manage the Colorado Conservation Easement Tax Credit Program cannot be overstated.

In addition to the creation of the new Division of Conservation, there are other significant provisions of the bill including:

  1. Continuation of the current Conservation Easement Oversight Commission (CEOC) with the same duties and responsibilities, with some changes in the composition of the CEOC;
  2. Clarification of educational requirements for qualified appraisers of conservation easements;
  3. Streamlining of the certification process for land trusts and other easement holders;
  4. Creation of a new and separate conservation cash fund in the State Treasury to retain fees paid to the Division for Conservation, gifts, grants, and other donations;
  5. Providing no more than 120 days for the Division of Conservation to either approve or deny an easement tax credit application; and
  6. Improving transparency by allowing the Director of the Division of Conservation to share publicly-available information regarding conservation easements with CSU to create a state registry of conservation easements.

The bill was signed by Governor Hickenlooper on May 21st, allowing Colorado to remain a national leader in conserving agricultural lands, wildlife habitat, and scenic landscapes. These changes are in effect for one year, with the expectation that next year the Colorado Legislature will extend the program for at least five years.

Please contact Bill Silberstein or Heather Haney for questions about the bill or for more information on conservation easements.